Wednesday, November 04, 2020

A Review of Tom Petty’s ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest (Deluxe Edition)’

If you’re into old school rock ‘n’ roll, there is a 99.9% chance you will have listened to (or at least heard of) the musical legend that is Tom Petty. After releasing lots of classic songs with his band, The Heartbreakers, as well as solo hits like ‘Free Fallin’’, it is easy to understand why the world of music was so rocked by his untimely death in 2017. But, 3 years later, Petty fans around the world have been treated to a cult classic album with additional unreleased material, thanks to friends and family granting Petty one final wish posthumously. 

‘Wildflowers & All The Rest’ includes new songs, live performances and home recordings allowing this version to feel like an unearthed ‘lost album’, rather than your standard reissue.

After creating a signature sound with The Heartbreakers, which began in the mid 70s, and releasing the commercially and critically acclaimed solo album ‘Full Moon Fever’ in 1989, Petty wanted to write further solo music in a more acoustic style. From this, ‘Wildflowers’ was born. An album full of revealing, heartfelt tunes, this cult album almost acted as a confessional booth for Petty, allowing him to create what is widely considered as his masterpiece. It became his fastest selling album and went triple platinum, so you know its full of musical treasure.


Originally, Tom wanted ‘Wildflowers’ to include the first 25 tracks of the deluxe version as an entirety, but this was cut down by Warner Bros who thought that the extra ten tracks made the album too long. After listening to the bonus tracks of ‘Wildflowers’, it’s hard to believe that Warner wouldn’t want these tracks included.


The ‘& All The Rest’ section of the album is comprised of 10 extra tracks that add extra elements and emotions that are already existing, thanks to the original release. As some of you may know, a few tracks from this section of the deluxe album have already been recorded by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Tracks like ‘California’ (a potential favourite of mine from & All The Rest) and ‘Hung Up and Overdue’ were featured on the ’96 album ‘She’s The One’; the latter track featured fellow music geniuses Ringo Starr and Carl Wilson – insane.  

Similarly, in the case of ‘Leave Virginia Alone’, you will most likely know this poppy, seemingly sweet song through Rod Stewart’s 1995 version. The romantic sounding track matched with its sometimes-opposing melancholy lyrics (“She was as high as a Georgia palm tree, makeup and pills, overdue bills”), easily lends itself to Tom’s grittier voice. I’m sorry Rod, but on this occasion, Tom’s version trumps yours by a mile.


In contrast to the upbeat melodies included, there are moments of extreme melancholy. ‘Hope You Never’ details someone going through clear relationship troubles, which is particularly poignant when you learn that the track was written at the beginning of the end of his marriage. ‘Climb That Hill Blues’, to me, accentuates the struggle of a person constantly overcoming battles and hurdles, rather than the optimism placed in the lyrics, due to its bluesy melody. 

In possibly the rawest song on the entire album, ‘Harry Green’ shares the story of a high school friend of Petty’s who was deemed an outcast and later committed suicide. These songs give glimpses into what Petty was struggling with privately at the time of writing, allowing listeners to feel closer to the artist over 20 years later.


With the home recordings and live performances of songs such as ‘Crawling Back to You’ and ‘Drivin’ Down to Georgia’, giving us a special look into Tom Petty’s career, the exclusive content seems a massive treat for those of us who never had the pleasure of experiencing Petty in person.


‘Wildflowers & All The Rest’ feels exciting and immersive, which is some going for an album which has already been partly released. You get a deeper look at what should have been the finalised album over two decades ago and are allowed to piece together the jigsaw of Petty’s life. With the almost 4-hour long album containing zen, cosy ballads to deeply emotional blues track through to soft rock elements, not one track seems unnecessary. You can tell this wasn’t released for money or extra fame: this album is full of love and admiration for Tom Petty and his final wishes.


Tom wrote in ‘California’, “sometimes you gotta just trust yourself”. After listening to ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest’, it is evident that Warner Bros should have lent their trust to this legend and let him have his incredible 25-track album after all.


Released 16th October 2020

Available as either 2 CDs, a 3 LP set, a box or in the deluxe edition.

- Lauren Firth
@laurenefirth / @laurenellisfirth

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